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Google Ads and SEO Declining?

Chris Walker recently made the case on LinkedIn that SEM and SEO were declining. The comment section was full of robust rebuttals

Introduction

Chris Walker, CEO of Refine Labs, recently made the case on LinkedIn that SEM and SEO were declining. The comment section was full of robust rebuttals. 

Who was right?

Today we’re going to dig into both sides of the debate. 

  1. What are the biggest changes taking place
  2. What are the main threats to Google Ads and SEO’s performance
  3. What should you be thinking about with regards to this issue

At the end I’ll give my personal assessment on whether Google Ads and SEO are, in fact, on the decline. 

The Argument for Decline

Chris Walker’s argument was straightforward. In fact, he said he would explain the decline in “less than 60 seconds”. Let’s take a look at his reasoning. 

He writes…

“In 2013, where could I go to search?

-Google

In 2022, where can I go to search?

-Google

-LinkedIn

-Tik Tok

-Pinterest

-Instagram

-YouTube

-Reddit

-Podcasts

-Slack communities

-Discord”

Do I think that’s he’s right? I would say that he’s onto something. Yet, his stated case has a flaw. 

He says, “where could I go to search?”. Search implies using typical search engine behavior we all know and love. Type in some keywords, scan the SERP the Google provides ( and, yes, it’s only Google, who averages betewen 86–96% market share worldwide. Google's global search engine market share was 91.88% as of June 2022). But this type of search behavior isn’t what happens on those other platforms. 

On LinkedIn, TikTok, Instagram, etc users search with #hashtags. Looking for the best dentist in Houston? Search for #houstondentist on Instagram. Best business coach? Search #businesscoach on LinkedIn. Need to up your gains at the gym? Go to TikTok and search #gym.

Also remember that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. Have a leaky faucet? Go to YouTube and type “DIY leaky faucet” and voila, a multitude of excellent DIY videos appear. 

The latest data shows that Google processes over 99,000 searches every single second (Internet Live Stats, 2022). This makes more than 8.5 billion searches a day. In 1998, the year after they launched, Google was processing just over 10,000 search queries per day. In comparison, by the end of 2006, the same amount of searches would be processed by Google in a single second. 

However, the amount of searches being done on Google has been on a steady decline since 2014 (see graph). 

This behavior has clearly plateaued. 

Which means that Google Ads and SEO have plateaued as well. 

The Rise of Lifelong Internet Users

So we can see that changes are taking place. Google is still dominant. But the attention share growth, in the U.S. particularly, has been fulfilled. This a mature technology. 

You know who doesn’t like mature technology. The young demographic coming of age today. AKA Gen Z. 

The Oxford Dictionaries describes Generation Z as "the generation born in the late 1990s or the early 21st century, perceived as being familiar with the use of digital technology, the internet, and social media from a very young age." 

They are the first generation born after the widespread adoption of the internet and it’s high speed delivery (ne’er have they heard the squawk of a dial-up modem). They are entering adulthood at a time when the glory days of tech and king-making of tech bros is behind us and seen in poor taste. They are coming of age in a time of skepticsm of major institutions, government and media. They don’t remember the awe of using Google to get excellent and instant results for any search. They just know that Google is tracking them everywhere they go. They don’t have the same level of trust. 

Or rather, they do, but not in tech. They trust their community. 

Back to Chris Walker…

“The reality is, people trust their NETWORK a lot more than the results they get from a random blog in Google. So they’re going to other places like LinkedIn, Tik Tok, Instagram, Podcasts, YouTube, Slack & Discord communities, and more to get information on what initiatives to prioritize, what products to purchase, who to follow, etc.”.

The argument is that community trumps tools. 

Consider this, when someone asks their neighbor for a referral, you want to be the company the neighbor refers. How do you make sure you’re top of mind in these neighborly interactions? Build trust in your local market. Build authority in your local market. Build your brand’s reputation. Build Your Brand.

How do you build trust and authority in your brand? 

Through content.

Where should you post this content? Where the attention is, right?

Creating excellent blog posts that solve your customer’s pain points, videos that educate them and social media posts that demonstrate your unique company culture and your place in the community will help you go beyond the bottom of the funnel where Google Ads and SEO live. 

This will allow you to thrive while your competitors fight it out in the red waters of the second price auctions and SERP turf battles

Closing

I’ve been arguing for five years now how Google Ads and SEO are no longer enough. It’s why IMA created the Digital Marketing Quadrant. You need an omnichannel strategy. You need a funnel. You need to brand yourself to get amazing results.

Here’s one last thought from Chris before we wrap up. “If your primary marketing strategy is still to capture existing market demand through SEO/SEM, you are vulnerable to slowed growth and declining market share.”

Luckily, you already have a plan for the path forward.

If you’re reading this and realize that you dont actually know your path forward, schedule an introductory call with us today and we’ll show you the way.

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